I almost did not recognize my San Francisco Giants when they started this postseason. And I’m not referring to the complete changeover in the starting eight from 2010 – with only Buster Posey remaining. (Pablo Sandoval rode the pine in that historic postseason.)
What I was wondering, less than one month ago: Where was the Torture? The Giants clinched the West so early, the world seemed upside-down.
But through the National League Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds, and the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants have shown that even though they have so many new cast members, they all know the script: Torture.
Having fallen behind two games to none against the Reds, the Giants managed to come all the way back. They proceeded to drop three of the first four games to the Cards, and once again won three straight to take the pennant.
Memo to Bruce Bochy and the boys: Please just win this next series early!
I had great fun the other day discussing this and other weighty matters on Michael Krasny‘s excellent program Forum on KQED. (Krasny graciously said that “Giants Past and Present” is “one of the best books about the Giants.”) You can listen to the show here:
The show opened with Giants’ President Larry Baer, and you could really hear how much fun he’s having. Larry is a lifelong Giants fan in his dream job, and you can’t help but smile every time you see him. Then Michael led a spirited discussion with me, KNBR’s awesome Marty Lurie, and San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy. I sure learned a lot listening to those guys – especially when Marty told us that, however bad Pete Kozma played shorstop for the Cardinals in the NLCS, he was not as bad as the Washington Senators’ Roger Peckinpaugh in the 1925 World Series, who made eight errors! (Another highlight: Marty let me try on his 2010 World Series ring – and it is a thing of beauty!)
One thought I had that I did not get to share: As we discussed the Giants, and beautiful AT&T Park, I wanted to give props to General Manager Brian Sabean for building a team perfect for its ballpark. Instead of going out and signing home run hitters, who only get frustrated with the park’s wide open spaces, Sabean brought in gap hitters like Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Gregor Blanco. You could put Melky Cabrera in there too (even though we don’t really like to talk about him any more), and it looks like it’ll be a good fit for the Brandons – Belt and Crawford. Need I say Buster Posey?
And maybe, if Hunter Pence hits more line drives like his famed “triple double” from game 7 of the NLCS – the ball that hit the bat three times – instead of swinging for the fences, the Giants will have the ingredients necessary to foil those big bopping Tigers.
After all, Marty Lurie viewed Pence’s lucky-breaking line drive as karmic payback for Willie McCovey’s smash that ended the 1962 World Series. No one could have hit that ball any harder, but it went straight to the Yankees’ Bobby Richardson. Pence’s ball curved away from Kozma, and the Giants were in business.
It’s good to be good. But sometimes it’s better to be lucky.
Even if it’s a little Torturous.
When the Giants won the World Series (yes!), the Record, the newspaper in Troy, NY, went on a crusade to bring the trophy to Troy, arguing that the Giants had their start as the Troy City Trojans in 1879.
Troy is getting its way: It’s close enough to Cooperstown so I guess the Giants capitulated, and will bring the trophy there on its national tour in the spring. But it’s a pretty thin connection.
I don’t know the sources that Troy Record writer Kevin Moran used — particularly in his pivotal assertion that John B. Day and Jim Mutrie bought the Troy franchise and moved it to New York. In the excellent book, “The Giants of the Polo Grounds” (Doubleday, 1988), author Noel Hynd lays out the history of the National League, including how after the first year, 1876, the cash-strapped New York and Philadelphia teams were booted out of the league.
In 1881, Day, a wealthy businessman, and Mutrie, a baseball enthusiast, formed an independent team, the New York Metropolitans, or Mets, and then in 1882 applied to be in the National League , along with a team from Philly. The NL pressed Worcester and Troy to resign from the league – the two last place teams; Troy drew 25 fans to its last game, and the year before had drawn TWELVE to its last game!
According to Hynd, the NL gave Day the New York franchise – and he then put the Mets in the rival American Association, and decided to start a new team for his National League venture. Hynd writes: “With the Troy club conveniently disbanded, its roster – even those players under ‘reserve’ – was free to be pillaged. Day promptly signed the best of them,” Roger Connor, Buck Ewing and Smiling Mickey Welch. Other players went elsewhere, including some to the Mets, and other players came from elsewhere.
I think it’s nice that the Giants are doing it for Troy – but it’s not quite historically accurate to say they started in Troy. They started in New York as the Gothams, winning their opener in 1883 at fields that actually had been used for polo (and which were owned by New York Herald founder and publisher James Gordon Bennett), before a crowd that included former President Ulysses Grant.
Spring training is over. The games all count now. The real work begins.
That’s as true for me, as the author of “Giants Past and Present,” as it is for the team that I’m writing about. And here at GPP World Headquarters, things have been popping!
First I’m thrilled to announce the launch of my YouTube channel, under the euphonious name of giantsbook. Here’s my first video, produced by Spoken Media‘s incredible team of Geralyn Pezanoski and Alley Pezanoski-Browne.
In addition, the book has been getting some more good press.
* Dave Tobener at Golden Gate Giants posted a nice review, calling the book “a fascinating look at the Giants from their inception in New York through the present day, offering a bunch of great stories and little-known anecdotes that even the most devoted fans may have never heard before.” Tobener also published a fun Q&A with me, and he’ll be giving away a signed copy of the book this weekend to the winner of a trivia contest, so be sure to check his site!
* My old employer, the San Francisco Chronicle, ran an excerpt of the book — the Giants-Dodgers Rivalry chapter, complete with a photo of the Marichal-Roseboro brawl. The story generated a lot of comments from fans ready for Opening Day – and another season of doing battle with L.A.!
* Ron Kaplan put my YouTube video up on his Baseball Bookshelf – along with a reminder for this Sunday’s event at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.
* I was at KALW radio studios in San Francisco today for an interview with Alan Farley for his BookTalk show. Stay tuned for the announcement of that show’s air date.
* When MVP Books published “Giants Past and Present,” I knew instantly where I wanted to have a book party: Public House, the new restaurant that’s taking the place of Acme Chophouse at Willie Mays Plaza, right in the ballpark. It’s already getting good buzz (which is not surprising, considering chef Traci Des Jardins’ enormous talents). The restaurant generously agreed to give me the space for the party from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on Tuesday, April 20. Come on out, try the food (and one or more of the 24 beers on tap!), and buy a book – it should be a good time!
What could be sadder than the dismantling of a ballpark?
I grew up going to Yankee games in the Bronx, and often my dad would park across the Harlem River from Yankee Stadium, right across the street from the housing projects that stood on the land once occupied by the Polo Grounds. (At least, he parked there until the car was vandalized and it no longer felt safe.) So I know about the sadness that exists in places where legendary ballparks once stood.
Now the immensely creative Todd Lappin, and his pal Burrito Justice, have figured out a way to reclaim a little bit of the joy of an old ballpark. They used some modern technology to triangulate the spot where home plate once stood in San Francisco’s Seals Stadium, home of the Giants in their maiden seasons on the West Coast. The park was torn down when the team moved into Candlestick Park in 1960, and a tacky little strip mall was built in its place. (It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening today in a city so preservation-minded, as well as anti-chain-store.)
And where does home plate belong? In aisle 6 of Office Depot, the PC aisle, by a Verizon Wireless display. (Take that, AT&T Park!) Lappin (aka Telstar Logistics — the name is another brilliantly creative story) maps out the rest of the diamond:
First base is now the entryway just inside the door of Office Depot. Second base is now by the first table in the seating area next to the Starbucks kiosk at Safeway. Third base is a food aisle — right between the refrigerated tortillas and the frozen pizzas — deeper in the supermarket.
Look at that X, and imagine Willie Mays launching home runs; or the spectacular rookie seasons of Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda; old New York Giants trying to cope with a foggy new home, and fresh new Giants like Jimmy Davenport making their big league debuts.
Next up, in collaboation with Burrito Justice, we may try to convince the managers of the Office Depot and Safeway stores to place permanent markers for each of the bases on their respective floors. Stay tuned.
I can get behind that effort!